In an ironic turn of events, Marjean Kuschel ended up needing to use the very orientation and mobility (O&M) skills she was studying as part of the curriculum for being an O&M instructor. Now, these strategies help her travel with confidence and in safety to places like New York City, Chicago, Oregon, Florida, Hawaii (a place on her Bucket List) and Alaska.
Marjean decided to change majors, but not because of her vision loss. As a white cane user, she drew from what she learned at school in De Kalb, Illinois and from classes she later attended at North Central Technical College in Wisconsin.
While living in Chicago, Marjean used her white cane to travel on buses, trains and the L. Using her cane, she identified landmarks that served as “cues” for getting to her desired destination. “Orientation and mobility,” Marjean remarked, “has two parts. One part is orientation to your surroundings, using your sense of hearing, touch and smell. The other part is asking yourself how you will use your white cane to get from one point to the other.” When she moved to Madison, Marjean relied on orientation and mobility training to acquaint herself with her new environment. “It’s an ongoing resource that helps me adapt and adjust to change,” she reflected.
Not only does a white cane orient Marjean to her surroundings, but it also orients her to people. She finds that when traveling, her cane helps launch conversations with others who are curious about her vision loss and how she is able to travel alone. “People comment on my confidence, and they tell me it inspires them. I hope it also educates them to the many things a person with vision loss is still able to do and to the importance of a white cane.”
Marjean regrets that many individuals with partial vision opt to not use a white cane. “This tool can give a person so much freedom and safety.” Since she knows about the many doors her cane has opened, she wishes more individuals with vision loss would use one “…so they can enjoy more of life.”